This article was taken from the Leadership Development Course (1995 Revision) originally published by the Grand Lodge of NY Committee on Leadership Services, authored by Allan M. Bryant.
The disappearance of William Morgan in September of 1826 set the stage for the influence of Freemasonry in government to be greatly diminished.
An individual by the name of William Morgan, had joined a Royal Arch Chapter in LeRoy, New York. He moved to Batavia and petitioned to join a Chapter there. Characterized as an undesirable, he was rejected. He then conspired with David Miller, a publisher whose habits were in harmony with Morgan, to print the “secrets” of Freemasonry. This disturbing news upset some over-zealous Freemasons who “allegedly” abducted Morgan from jail. He was not heard from since.
A body was found at Oak Orchard Harbor near Niagara. A claim was made that it was that of Morgan. Although the claim later proved to be false, detractors of Freemasonry used the claim to build suspicion and hatred against the Craft. The Anti-Masonic political party was formed. Churches expelled from their congregations any member who would not renounce Freemasonry. Most Masonic lodges were dissolved. A few remained in operation by meeting in secret.
In 1827, there were 800 Lodges in New York State with over 20,000 members. By 1830 only 82 Lodges were left with 3,000 members. It was not until 1857 that New York membership would be back to the 1827 level. The Morgan affair caused a decline in Masonic membership, especially in North East America, for a period of about 20 years.